PKG Social Impact Internships: Christine Padalino (’22)

My name is Christine Padalino, and I am a rising senior majoring in Course 10 (Chemical Engineering) and Course 12 (Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences). This summer I worked with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) as a Sustainability Intern through the PKG Internship Program. 

The central social issue I have been working on is environmentalism. The work I have been doing touches almost every aspect of this issue, from climate resiliency to waste reduction to responsible procurement. At BIDMC, environmentalism is deeply intertwined with health and patient care. The title of the sustainability program is “Healthy Work, Healthy Home”, driving through that idea. BIDMC works to address environmental issues through programs in their own organization, as well as partners with other healthcare organizations to address environmental issues. I have learned that environmentalism in an organization is a complex issue at times. There are cost-benefit analyses to run for each new program proposed, and it’s not just financial issues that are taken into account. At a hospital, things such as infection control and patient comfort also are key. Using reusable devices versus single use devices is a key example where all of these issues combine into one cost-benefit analysis. Even the environmental impact of cleaning the reusable devices versus the disposal of the single use device adds to the weighing of pros and cons. 

One of my main projects was working with my supervisor to establish a strategic action plan for BIDMC’s sustainability program. Through this work, I did a lot of research on sustainability initiatives being taken on by many other organizations. I used to be pretty pessimistic about how change would be made in the sustainability field. I had figured that change would only come due to regulations and pressure being placed by the government on organizations. My research and internship, however, have shown that there is change being made for so many other reasons as well. Working with my passionate supervisor, I have seen that change comes from individuals who are in a position to make change. Working with the other employees at BIDMC, I have seen change come from people who do not work in sustainability every day but remain passionate advocates outside of their scripted job description. I have seen organizations band together to make change, and researched about organizations that are leading the charge for a more sustainable world. I have been inspired that regardless of where I go or what I do, I can always find and implement my values into the work I am doing. While I still think regulations will be a powerful point of change, I found hope seeing change come for different reasons and in different ways. 

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Tags: Climate Change, Health, Health & Medicine, Social Impact Internships, Social Impact Internships Summer 2021

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